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National Cocoa Day!

Today we celebrate a favorite hot drink for the holidays, its National Cocoa Day.  This day is observed annually on December 13th.

A hot cup of cocoa, a perfect drink for the cold winter weather.  Hot cocoa or hot chocolate is a heated drink consisting of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, and heated milk or water is added with some sweetener, also sometimes served with some whipped cream or marshmallows.

Cocoa is made from the dried, fermented seeds of the cacao tree wherein the seeds are ground to make a cocoa powder which is the main ingredient in the hot cocoa drink we all love.  The cocoa trees are grown worldwide.  Cocoa is similar to wine, wherein the flavor profile differs based on where it’s grown.  It takes 300-600 cocoa beans to make two pounds of chocolate!

It was believed that the first chocolate drink has been created by the Maya around 2,500-3,000 years ago, and a cocoa drink was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD, by which they referred to as “xocolatl”.  The drink became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World and has undergone multiple changes since then.  Until the 19th century, hot chocolate was even used medicinally to treat ailments such as liver and stomach diseases.

Good hot cocoa during this cold winter December gives you warm and enjoyed by many families in a variety of combinations of toppings like whipped cream, sprinkle of cinnamon or some sprinkle of candy cane peppermint shavings or the most famous one is marshmallows.  Today, hot chocolate in the form of drinking chocolate or cocoa is considered comfort food and is widely consumed in many parts of the world.

Although hot chocolate is generally consumed for pleasure, the drink is believed to have several potential health benefits.  A 2003 study from Cornell University found that cocoa contains large amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer.  Also, the study shows that the cocoa bean helps with digestion.  From the 16th to 19th centuries, hot chocolate was valued as a medicine as well as a drink.

So, today, celebrate this day by grabbing your favorite cup and make some hot cocoa and add your favorite toppings like some marshmallow or sprinkle.  Share on social media using #NationalCocoaDay.

1862 Battle of Fredericksburg

On December 13, 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia repulses a series of attacks by General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The defeat was one of the most decisive loses for the Union army, and it dealt a serious blow to Northern morale in the winter of 1862-63.

Burnside assumed command of the Army of the Potomac in November 1862 after George McClellan failed to pursue Lee into Virginia following the Battle of Antietam in Maryland on September 17. Burnside immediately crafted a plan to move against the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. This called for a rapid march by the Federals from their positions in northern Virginia to Fredericksburg on the Rappahannock River. Burnside planned to cross the river at that point and then continue south.

The campaign began promisingly for the Union. The army moved quickly down the Rappahannock but then stalled across the river from Fredericksburg. Due to poor execution of orders, a pontoon bridge was not in place for several days. The delay allowed Lee to move his troops into place along Marye’s Heights above Fredericksburg.

(excerpted from